Here’s The Thing About Boundaries…
Very rarely is it acceptable to be an outright asshole.
Most people don’t take super kindly to other people being rude or obnoxious or straight-up mean, with poor intentions. It’s normally clear how to react in those situations: shut it down.
That said, most people – myself included – aren’t sure how to react in the situation where someone isn’t necessarily trying to be an asshole – and therefore, may have decent intentions – but is coming off like a huge douche.
Over the past two weeks, since just before announcing that I was married, I’ve dealt with several situations where it’s clear to me that someone isn’t intending to be an asshole, but they are sincerely coming off like the world’s biggest one.
And it’s been about one thing and one thing only: my marriage. Surprisingly, many people in my life – both in my “real” life and my digital life – have seemed to have a hard time accepting that I’m married now. And that I have a husband, who is the most important human in my life.
And that – and this is the important one – I have boundaries.
I’m a writer. It’s sometimes what I do for a living and sometimes what I do for fun, but it’s always who I am. And I don’t write publicly because I love the process of getting up early, downing some coffee, and sitting down to pour my thoughts onto the page. I have a private journal for that. I write publicly because I believe in relating to people. I believe in taking down our walls and taking things out of the shadows, and putting things out in the open so that we can all start to realize how similar we truly are and that none of us are “freaks”. I write publicly because I believe in connecting with people, sincerely. I write publicly because I feel like sometimes, I may have some things to say, that are similar to things other people want to say.
I write publicly, truly, because I love getting the emails or Facebook messages or Twitter DMs or Insta chats from someone I’ve never met saying, “Thank you so much for writing about that. It’s something I’ve been struggling with too, and it made me feel better to know that I wasn’t alone.”
I write publicly because I believe that nothing matters at the end of the day except love – and that the way you get to love is through connection.
And these are all the same reasons that I believe in radical honesty: you can’t connect with another human when you have your guard up. You can’t connect with another human when you aren’t being 100% honest about you. And you definitely can’t connect with another human when you are trying to filter yourself.
So I write things. And I encourage people to reach out to me – constantly, whenever they want, about whatever they want. And I respond – constantly. And I love talking to people. And people are my passion.
But here’s the thing – I have boundaries.
Or maybe, let me rephrase and clarify: I have A boundary.
Let me rephrase and clarify even further: I have A NEW boundary.
I have one really new, really big, really impermeable boundary that I have recently decided I need to be really clear about: Jonathon Richard Nowakowski. My husband. The man whose name I decided to take. The man who let me take his name.
And unfortunately, that hasn’t seemed clear to many people. Perhaps it’s my fault. It likely is my fault. I write about everything in my life – so how could I not write about the biggest thing in my life? I let people into things – my happiness, my sadness, my adventures – so of course, I wanted to let people into the greatest adventure.
But that has led to a situation in which people think that I actually have no boundaries. Because I let people in, it must mean that nothing is off limits, that everything is on the table, that there are no lines which must not be crossed.
There are limits. There are things off the table. And there are lines.
And one of them is my husband.
Over the past couple of weeks, people have made statements and comments and remarks that have not been very respectful of my husband. Or my marriage. Or me.
And people’s responses, when I or my husband ask them not to be so disrespectful or ask them what happened that they thought they could say something like that, have been to point to me, and my writing, and my views on monogamy. “Well, you don’t believe in monogamy so I assumed…” “Well, you wrote about this so I assumed…” “Well, you feel this way about this thing so I assumed…”
Maybe stop assuming. Because here’s the thing, not about me, but about nonmonogamy – and about my marriage: it still has boundaries. And here’s the thing, not about me, but about writing and writers: there are still limits.
Nonmonogamy doesn’t mean a free for all of flirting with me or my husband whenever you want – publicly or otherwise. Nonmonogamy doesn’t mean making derogatory comments about my marriage. Nonmonogamy doesn’t mean my husband and I are constantly searching for our next hookup, and that you can proposition either or both of us anywhere, anytime.
All nonmonogamy means is that we don’t believe that monogamy is the way to go. That’s it. That’s literally it.
And writing about everything, and letting people in to my life, doesn’t mean that people are free to take whatever they want from my life. Writing doesn’t mean that people are free to judge all of my actions – and then tell me exactly what they think. Writing doesn’t mean that people are free to view me as a character in a TV show – if I make a decision they disagree with, they are free to get angry at the writer.
If I’m being totally honest, I’ve wondered, over the past 24 hours, whether to stop writing completely. And whether to take my life offline, because as much as I have wanted to connect with people, it seems that many people don’t know how to connect without trying to take advantage.
We may have gotten married on April Fools’ Day. It may have been after just 8 weeks of being together. It may have been a surprise to some. Nothing about this may be considered normal to society as a whole, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be respected at the same level of the stuff that is considered “normal” to society as a whole.
Nothing about this marriage was done to entertain or impress or surprise others. It was done solely and exclusively to make myself and my husband the happiest we’ve ever been.
Just because I share my experiences with people – and this is my newest, greatest experience – doesn’t mean that the sanctity of my marriage shouldn’t be respected.
For any readers of my blog or friends of mine or Googlers of me, know this: it’s a really difficult thing to write about everything in your life so openly. It takes effort and time and mental energy. It’s done very intentionally, to connect with others.
And it’s disappointing when people take advantage of that, without first stopping to think whether or not they are being inappropriate or disrespectful or just plain rude. It may be done with the best of intentions, or it may be done as a joke, or it even may be done to push my boundaries and see which ones I actually have – but it’s still not a nice thing to do, at the end of the day, when it comes off as callously inconsiderate of something I really care about.
How I feel about writing or monogamy generally or sex or drugs or relationships generally or raves or swinger’s clubs or puppies or veganism or fitness or politics or racism or anything else you can think of is simply that: it’s how I feel about it. It’s what I’ve written about it. It’s completely open for you to ask me about and discuss with me. And I will literally never shut any discussion down about my views on things because I believe in love and connection.
My husband, though, and my marriage, are totally different topic areas. I write about him, I write about us, and I will continue to. And I hope people talk to me about it and ask me about it. But unlike the general topics I mentioned above, there will come a time I will shut discussions down. There will come a moment, if I’m engaging with someone being disrespectful of him or us, that I will say enough is enough. Just because I’ve written about certain things doesn’t give you an open pass to the most important thing in my life.
If you’re one of those people wondering about how to behave with a nonmonogamous couple where the wife is an open writer about all things personal: do yourself a favor and consider my marriage closed. No, we won’t be sleeping with you or flirting with you or discussing our life with you.
So for anyone that I may know in the digital world or in real life that may be wondering whether it’s appropriate to make shitty comments about my views on monogamy to my husband: it’s not. For anyone that I may know in the digital world or in real life that may be wondering whether it’s appropriate to hit on my husband while I’m standing right there: it’s not. For anyone that that I may know in the digital world or in real life that may be wondering whether it’s appropriate to continue to hit on me, just because of “how I feel about monogamy”: it’s not.
And especially for anyone that I may know in the digital world or in real life that wonders whether I actually have any boundaries: I do. And once again, his name is Jonathon Richard Nowakowski.
So I am going to continue writing about things that matter to me and I’m going to continue letting people in, because I believe strongly in it. In fact, even this post was a difficult one for me to write because I always want to give people the benefit of the doubt. I think most people are just struggling with their own shit and trying to do their best and I want to acknowledge that and help people grow and move forward, as I grow and move forward. It takes a lot for me to actually get angry about something and stop giving people chances.
I am a person that likes to push societal boundaries – but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my own. Everyone should feel free to push the boundaries of their own life, but also respect the boundaries that other people have.
So I’ll keep writing.
But from now on, I’m also going to be much clearer about where the line is drawn. I may have changed a lot in the past year of traveling and blogging and writing and my opinions on things may have grown and developed in unexpected directions and my marriage might be a thing that came totally out of the blue to some people, but to me, the line is clear: my husband, and my marriage, are off limits to your interpretation or your disrespect or your unsolicited opinion.